Monday, September 24, 2012

All About Butterfruit/Avocado (Persea americana) in India

In Latin and South American cuisines, avocados feature in several recipes: Guacamole, tomatillo soup, chipotle chilis and chorizo breakfasts, to name a few. Indians, however, have no such adoration for the reptilian-looking fruit. While a few stalls have butterfruit shakes on the menu, most Indians remain unaware of the fruit’s culinary potential in savory dishes and even desserts.

Avocados are an ancient fruit. Over 14,000 years ago, megafauna roaming Central and South America dined on avocados as a delicacy. The glyptodonts, or, massive armadillos, used to devour avocados whole and spread the seed throughout the region.

The Aztecs adored avocados as well: While most fruits are decidedly feminine in nature, they knew the fruits as ahuacatl, or, “testicles.” This moniker stemmed from the fruit’s shape, as well as the belief that they were an aphrodisiac.

Although avocados have existed for centuries, the Hass avocado—the bumpy-skinned variant accounting for most of the avocados sold worldwide—has its origins in California during the early 1900s. Rudolph Hass convinced his children not to destroy a bizarre tree found in his neighborhood. By 1935, the small sapling grew magnificent fruits that he later patented them as the Hass avocado.

Avocados have existed in India only since the early 1900s, when they came to the country’s west coast by way of Sri Lanka.

Availability of Avocados in India:
India does not grow many butterfruits, and only a handful of sub tropical southern states grow them commercially. Regions producing the fruit include the hill slopes of Tamil Nadu, Coorg in Maharashtra, Kerala, and limited areas of Karnataka. The only state successfully growing avocados in the north is the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, where they grow at elevations between 800 to 1600 meters.

The avocado industry is fragmented and not well organized; however, as of 2013, a few organizations have formed to support avocado farmers and develop marketing campaigns.

The South’s main avocado season is July through August, with a few trickling in during September. Fruits grown in Sikkim arrive in September and last through October. Outside of these months, avocados are hard to find. Anecdotally, a handful of growers may store hard fruits and ripen them artificially throughout the offseason, but this is rare. India does not import butterfruit due to low consumer demand and the market’s general predilection for sweet fruits.

Where to Find Avocados in India:
From July through September, several markets sell butterfruits but their presence is sporadic: One week, a bin full of butterfruits awaits; the next, they’re gone.

Warning: few of the avocados sold in stores are edible, particularly in the early season. Only purchase an avocado that is already soft. Do not buy unripe avocados with the expectation of putting them in a paper bag or letting them ripen on the counter: there’s a good chance that they won’t ripen. While avocados can and do soften once plucked from the tree, the ones picked prematurely fail to ripen adequately—such is the case for many butterfruits harvested in India.

India’s early season avocados notoriously turn from hard and underripe, to moldy and overripe within the course of an afternoon. They’ll be hard and green on one half of the fruit; black and molding on the other. This is a clear indicator of “stem end rot,” an infamous affliction of India’s avocado crops.

Markets sell a few types of avocados discernible by their size and skin texture: some are the large, smooth-skinned Florida avocados with a light green surface; the others are the small, bumpy, dark green Haas avocados common in California.

According to the book, Management of Horticultural Crops, India grows approximately 15 commercial varieties. Avocados are also categorized by their “race,” of which there are three categories:

Mexican: the smallest type of avocado with a thin, smooth skin. Because this variety is tolerant of cold weather, it grows well in the Nilgiri Hills and Sikkim. Its 30 percent oil content contributes to a smooth, creamy flesh.

Guatemalan: A large variant with a small, central seed capable of weighing up to 600g. The fruit contains half the fat content as the Mexican race, offering only between 8 to 15 percent oil. The flesh, then, is more watery and less creamy.

West Indian: A medium-sized fruit with smooth skin and a large central pit, commonly grown in Tamil Nadu. Oil content is low, ranging from 10 to 30 percent per fruit.

Checking for Ripeness in Avocado:
All ripe avocados should yield to the touch. If a black-skinned avocado feels hollow upon pressing the skin, it’s likely over ripe. If the skin is still green, however, these “hollow” avocados may be edible. It isn’t always possible to determine ripeness based on skin color: Avocados range in color between dark green to purplish black. Smooth-skinned variants tend to have the lightest skin color, whereas bumpy fruits are darker.

The best indicator of ripeness is the color of the flesh itself. Before tossing out any avocado based on its exterior, cut it open: the pulp of a ripe butterfruit should be creamy and pale green. Fruits with a few brown/dark spots may be edible, but if the flesh is pale gray is, it’s likely spoiled. Also avoid avocados with stringy, gray flesh and an unpleasant, slightly acrid smell.

Tip: a small part of the stem remains near the top of the fruit—remove this stem piece to get a small window of the avocado’s flesh: if the flesh is green, it’s ripe. If brown, it’s spoiled.

Taste of Buttefruit:
The taste of butterfruit is smooth and—as its namesake would imply—buttery. While avocados are never sweet or sour, its mellow, rich flavor makes it a beloved fruit in other parts of the world. The initial taste resembles a luscious but un-sweet papaya, followed by a rich, pleasing aftertaste owed to its fat content.

Few, if any, eat plain avocado because of its understated, bland taste. The blandness, however, is easily rectified by the addition of simple salt, pepper, or in some recipes, even sugar. Avocado resembles butter in its use: it’s never eaten from the jar, but added liberally to enhance the flavor of certain dishes.

Butterfruit Nutritional Value:
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible avocado fruit contains the following values:

8.5g Carb
6.7g Fiber (27% RDI)
14.7g Fat (23% RDI)
2.1g Saturated Fat (11% RDI)
110mg Omega-3 Fatty acids
1689mg Omega-6 Fatty acids
2g Protein (4% RDI)
146IU Vitamin A (3% RDI)
10mg Vitamin C (17% RDI)
2.1mg Vitamin E (10% RDI)
21mcg Vitamin K (26% RDI)
.1mg Thiamin (4% RDI)
.1mg Riboflavin (8% RDI)
1.7mg Niacin (9% RDI)
.3mg Vitamin B6 (13% RDI)
81mg Folate (20% RDI)
1.4mg Pantothenic Acid (14% RDI)
12mg Calcium (1% RDI)
.5mg Iron (3% RDI)
52mg Magnesium (7% RDI)
52mg Phosphorous (5% RDI)
485mg Potassium (14% RDI)
6mg Zinc (4% RDI)
.2mg Copper (9% RDI)
.1mg Manganese (7% RDI)
.4mcg Selenium (1% RDI)

Put in perspective: One medium-sized avocado weighs 200g.

Health Benefits of Avocado:
While some may grimace at the thought of avocado’s high fat, the fruit contains a wealth of other nutrients in a single serving:
--The fruit is a powerhouse of heart-healthy fats and brain-boosting Omega fatty acids.
--Avocados are one of the only fruits containing vitamin K, a nutrient critical to metabolism regulation and blood coagulation.
--Avocados also contain a healthy dose of folate, the vitamin essential for growth and even known to act as a mild antidepressant.
--Butterfruits have the most protein concentration of any tropical fruit, and contain all of the essential amino acids.
--Its monounsaturated fats lower “bad” cholesterol
--Avocados contain more potassium per serving than bananas and have 4 times the amount of soluble fiber as an apple.

Scientific studies point to other amazing health benefits:
--A 2004 study published in the “Annals of Oncology” found that oleic acid—a compound found in olive oil as well as avocados—inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells. A 2007 article published by the Garvan Institute also explains that another compound in avocado, persin, may also kill breast cancer cells.
--A 2011 study published in the “Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications” found that specific compounds in avocados have growth inhibitory effects against oral cancers.
--According to the results of a 2012 study published in “Food Chemistry,” unripe avocado pulp has antimycobacterial properties.
--Eating avocados alongside unhealthy foods may reduce the adverse effects of consuming the junk food: A 2013 study published in “Food and Function” found that the avocado slices added to hamburgers had anti-inflammatory and vascular health benefits, thus remedying some of the negative health effects of the burger.
--A 2007 study published in “Archivos de Cardiologia de Mexico” found that when rats had their diet supplemented with Haas avocados, their HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels increased, thus proving the fruit to be a heart-healthy food.

How to Open/Cut:
Cut the fruit in half, lengthwise. The large avocado pit in the center of the fruit will prevent a clean cut, so work the knife around the pit. Once the cut has been made around the whole fruit, twist the two halves to expose the fruit and reveal the half with the pit.

There are a couple methods of removing the pit from the exposed half: the first method is to cut the piece into quarters and use the knife to wiggle away the pulp from the slice. The pit should be easily removed at this point.

The second method is to use a spoon and scoop out the pit.

Many chefs use this third method, but not recommended: hold the half containing the pit with a cloth separating one’s hand from the fruit. Take a large knife and gently whack the blade into the pit, similar to how a coconut vendor uses a machete against a coconut. The knife shouldn’t cut through the pit, but the blade should lodge itself into the pit just enough so that, when wiggled gently, the pit can be lifted from the pulp. 

Storing Avocados:
Hard avocados will ripen and soften at room temperature over the course of a week. To expedite ripening, wrap the avocados in newspaper and place in a wood basket. If wishing to extend the avocado’s lifespan by a week, transfer the fruits to the refrigerator.

Mashed or cut avocado flesh will brown from oxidation. As is true with apples, adding lemon juice to the flesh will prevent discoloration. Store mashed avocados by placing the mixture in an airtight container—reduce oxidation further by wrapping the container in plastic wrap. 

If a person cuts the avocado soon, as evident by its hard, unyielding flesh, the fruit is not wasted—simply squeeze some lemon juice on the flesh and place the halves back on top of the other. Put the avocado back in the refrigerator and wait for it to soften.

Though whole, sliced or cut avocados do not freeze well, mashed pulp can be frozen with a bit of preparation: remove the pulp and place it in a blender, along with one tablespoon of lemon juice per avocado. Blend until completely smooth, and transfer the pulp to an airtight container or, ideally, a vacuum-sealed plastic bag. The pulp will keep for 4 to 5 months.

Butterfruit Recipe Ideas:
--Make a delicious dip for veggies by mashing avocado and adding minced garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. This dip, known as guacamole, has a number of delicious permutations:
            --Add chunks of mango, corn, papaya and tomato
            --Include pomegranate seeds and stir in some orange juice
--Mix avocado chunks with corn, black bean, cilantro, mango, and tomato. Add this concoction to amaranth or millets to make it go from a dip to a healthy salad.
--Avocados are great as a dessert base: make a creamy, rich pudding mashing the pulp and whipping it with cocoa powder, banana, vanilla extract, and date syrup.
--Similarly, make a pie filling from avocados: blend the fruit with strawberries, sugar and vanilla to create a strawberry cream pie filling. Or, pour the avocado chocolate pudding into a piecrust made from blended nuts and dates.
--Create a butterfruit smoothie that resembles a creamy milkshake. Blend avocado with soy milk, vanilla extract, and sugar.
-Use butterfruit slices on sandwiches, or as a spread for crackers.
--Use as a soup cream by blending it into soups: blend in the avocado after the broth has cooled slightly.
--Make a simple avocado salad by combining chunks of the fruit with tomato, cucumber, red onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper and Italian herbs like basil, oregano, and sage.
--Blend avocados as an oil substitute for salad dressings. Avocado dressing works well on firmer greens like kale, cabbage and romaine, but may weigh down tender greens such as spinach.

*Keep in mind: Avoid juicing, heating or cooking butterfruit. Though some recipes may grill avocado halves for a minute or so, excessive, prolonged heat adversely affects the taste.

Flavor Complements:
Fruits: Lemon, lime, mango, papaya, pomegranate, banana, custard apple, bullock’s heart, Bentham’s cornel, cempedak, durian, jackfruit, date, lakoocha, mabolo, passion fruit, orange, sweet lime, kumquat, lemon, lime, strawberry, sapota

Vegetables: tomato, radish, leek, turnip, cucumber, salsify, carrot, pea, pumpkin, wax gourd, mushroom, corn, green chili

Herbs, spices, and oils (savory): olive oil, parsley, coriander, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, achiote, turmeric, cumin, sumac, onion (yellow and red), garlic, ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, sesame, sesame oil, walnut, cashew, sunflower seeds, coconut oil, sugar, cocoa, vanilla

Random Facts:
India exported 220kg of avocado to the Maldives in 2011.

Binomial Name:
Persea americana

Other Names:
Makhanphal, kulu naspati (Hindi)
Alligator Pear



  1. Thanks so much for the article. Me and my husband just moved from Boston to Bangalore. He is a big fan of Avacado. I went ahead and purchased raw avacado not knowing they wouldnt ripe or would ripe real black. I stumbled upon your article and got some insightful info. I will give it a try buying them again fully ripe. I plan to grow one myself in a farm if this doesnt work.

    1. Hi sushma... thats really true... we are also crazy fans of these cute lil fruit... we moved from hongkong to Bangalore... am not finding hass or gem or anyother good verity... am also planning to grow... if u find a good quality.. plz share with me where u got.. thanks... ☺

  2. Dear Catherine,
    Thanks a lot for such an elaborate article which shows your command over the subject. I did not know till now that it is grown anywhere in India. Just out of curiosity, I managed 3 seeds last year but found the germination process (hanging over water half submerged) too cumbersome. So after winter, I planted these in March this year in soil only and was pleasantly surprised to see a sprout 3-4 days back. I don't know whether it will stand the harsh winter/summer of Punjab but I will try to raise it anyway.
    If you are a botanist, please help me raise graviola in Punjab. I have prepared 5-6 saplings out of seeds but these are refusing to grow despite my best efforts. I want the graviola tree leaves more than the fruit, to be used as a medicine for cancer for the poor. Regards.

    1. Col Dhaul ji I did same thing. out of two seed one is growing in soil in Ludhiana dis.first keep in water about month all Jan 2013 no sing of growing.then try in soil last Dec 2013 start growing.

  3. If you have left over avacado, to prevent it from going black, take a bowl of water and submurge it in water. It will save for 3-5 days in the fidge. leave the skin on until you are ready to use. Remember to keep the cut side down in the water. It will not soak up the water. Enjoy. Love Avacado's. it is incredabile in salads, alon and even in kerala aviyal.

  4. Avocados are good for brain, too. I need them but I can't have them all the time, is there any way to save them for future?

    1. Yes, there is! When ripe, scoop out the pulp, mash it, add plenty of lemon juice, and then stick the mashed pulp in the freezer. Ideally, the container should be as airtight as possible, because too much exposure will hasten decay and cause discoloration (the lemon juice helps with that, though).

      Also, cut any ripe avocado in two, and stick the halves in the fridge on top of the other. I've been amazed at how long those guys last--a month later, and I was enjoying them.

      Good luck, and enjoy the butterfruit. =)

  5. I have been growing Avocados since 2003 in Dehradun. I grew a dozen or so till my father, then 90 years found that fruiting will start after 7 -14 years. Promptly I knocked off all except three. This is the third year we await a crop. Fruit buds have formed. Quite devastating to see only one fruit from over 20,000 flowers. Every year I grow over 60 saplings. This year I have grafted over a dozen- want an early bloom & crop. My Avocs are Fuerte. Am looking for Hass, Lamb Hass or Bacon. I love this fruit that I share with my close kin. Each weighs 500 gms. I believe it contains loads of HDL - good Cholesterol. Every morning we enjoy a glass of milk shake with 1/2 Avoc each. (Brig RS Rawat retd)

    1. From where can I get Avocodas in Dehradun?

    2. Bravo Brig. You are doing a wonderful job. Avocado is only scientifically proven fruitful medicine in this world in curing the most painful physical problem of every old human being. Unfortunately due to lack of knowledge of farmers are not showing interest in avocado farming. That way everybody can not afford this most precious fruit easily like any common fruit of India. Basically this fruit belongs to Mexico.
      According to one of my friend a very senior orthopedic Dr. Ramesh Sen HOD Forties Mohali Punjab avocado can cure osteoarthritis and common rheumitidearthritis and can avoid knee replacement even. Keep it up sir.

    3. hello Sir, can you also let me know where in dehraun you reside?.. i have germinated 3 seeds in february, only 1 of them has shown its root today, dont know about the rest 2 will work or not. I want to grow avocado at my home. what care does it need to grow ?

    4. and is it true that tree from a seed do not bear good fruit and getting graft will bear fruit in 3-7 years ??

  6. My Avocados taste like coconut water. I am surprised that the one you mention tastes like egg yoke! I probably would prefer a coconut taste.

    1. Sir I want to contact you. Please give me a call at my number 8588806248

  7. Hi Catherine, I would like to add your link on avocado to my blog post on avocado milkshake.

    Please let me know if it is ok.
    I find your blog very informative and interesting.

  8. Thanks for the information.
    I am from Bangalore and looking to cultivate the avocado. The place is about 150 kms from Bangalore and year full of dry weather. Temp will be 30-33degree and 35-38 in summer.
    Is this weather is suitable for cultivation.
    I have planted 2 trees 6 years back, they grown well and giving good yield. hence thinking to start in 5 hectares with organic cultivation. Pls suggest and advise about the market.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi eranna I am Nirmal , I stay in Bangalore I love avocado fruit d I am thinking of planting one in ma garden so plz suggest me where can I get d good seeds..

    2. Hi eranna I am Nirmal , I stay in Bangalore I love avocado fruit d I am thinking of planting one in ma garden so plz suggest me where can I get d good seeds..

  9. Hello Everyone
    I m a small scale farmer from solan (himachal pradesh) and deeply interested in the farming of Avocado and willing to know what should be climate condition as well as what kind of soil type required.

  10. One correction: Coorg is in Karnataka and not in Maharastra as mentioned in the article. Kariappa

  11. is is benificial for period issues

  12. Excellent summary. Any pointers to where to buy 'grafted' avacado plant in India?

  13. Sir, i am living in Bhopal M.P. have grown two avacado plants in my backyard, whether it is fruitful to keep them means they can grow in this climate or not. presently they are 1 month old.

  14. I am looking for grafted Avocado trees. Any help is appreciated. I am in Maharashtra.

  15. Great Article... Very Informative//Superlike//

  16. Great info about Avacado. I am interested to grow them but just cant find the seeds. Would somebody care to share info or sell the seeds to me?

    1. Hi... u cannot grow a tree from the seed.. if u grow from a seed.. it will take around 8 to 15 years to bear fruit... so you buy a grafted plant from the nursery.. then u plant them.. u will get fruit in 3 to 4 years... good luck

    2. Hii...i am karuna. I am from guwahati assam...
      I want avocado to eat..then you help me to purchase them from bangalore

  17. Hello Friends,
    My name is Vinod from Houston Texas, I am planning to grow avocado in Maharastra if anyone interested please contact me via email or phone.
    If you need any help or support from United States please let me know so hope we can do this as a business and extra income for families in India.

  18. Hi this is shilpa India

    I wanted to enter into retail business.of avocado, or can plant too meanwhile,
    Here awareness of this fruit limited and nobody knows much about it, I can.fully dedicate myself in awareness programme too,pls guide for any training programme or, how can I indulge in it

    Pls guide

    Shilpa verma

  19. Hello, wonderful article. I need help regarding growing avocado in india. I have got few seeds of it from my trip to goa and i want to germinate the seeds on small piece of land, say an acre. Pls care to guide me with the info that i can need in future. Waiting for the reply.
    My email :

  20. Here are some intersting facts about Avocado

  21. here are many tips aboput Avacado avocado in hindi thanks again

  22. Avocado and Basil are very helpful for anyone can find Basil benefits

  23. Ye kahaan Bharat mai miltaa hai kripyaa batayen..thanx for information

  24. The information which you have provided is very good. It is very useful who is looking for selenium Online Training Bangalore

  25. Hi All, any idea where I can get the Hass variety sapling in Bangalore. I have a Avocado tree grown from seed, about 4 years old and 18 feet. There hasn’t been flowering so far.

  26. I am searching sapling in Bangalore to grow them in my native place Kadur, Chickmagalore Dist. Please suggest me where can i get good saplings. My Mobile No.9986897205 /

  27. I am searching for butter fruit tree

  28. Hi, your articles is excellent. Could you please provide Infor on where to purchase crafted avocados trees